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The Fundamentals and Anti-fundamentals of Golf
Jim McLean's Twenty-two Fundamentals for Great Ball Striking, and Twenty-five Misconceptions of the Golf Swing
As a teacher of the game for more than thirty years, I've made hundreds of friends in my profession. I've learned from many, and I've trained many. But I must report that there is still a tremendous amount of misinformation being propagated by golf instructors. Frankly, I seriously thought, when I first published the true fundamentals of top ball striking in The Eight-Step Swing more than a decade ago, that it would be a huge deal in the teaching world. To my surprise, almost no one noticed. That's why this time I lead with them in Chapter One.
Often the information you read or watch on TV is just dead wrong. Sometimes the information is partially correct for a certain segment of golfers but will mislead and damage many others who try to employ this new way of swinging. "Partially correct" is a good definition for most swing methods. It's the part that is "partially incorrect" that can do serious damage. In golf instruction, a little off is way off.
Mainly, teachers around the world continue to teach their opinions. As a result, they continue to spread as truth positions and movements that many great players simply do not do.
If any writer or golf publication would seriously look at the number of players who reached a very high amateur ranking or who made it to the PGA Tour but were then ruined or damaged their game for many years by using a strict method (perhaps taught by well-known teachers), it would shock the golf world. Even tour players are subject to trying a miracle method. Just like you, a good number of supertalented golfers will try some new method that has "all the answers." It's an amazing thing! Quite a few gifted golfers have ended up on the junk heap of golf oblivion by changing their natural swing. They were likely taking things out of their golf swing that did not need changing, and as a result they got worse. Later they might find out that several of the greatest ball strikers in history were doing exactly the same thing that they took out. You just cannot teach every person the same swing. There is no one perfect swing. As teachers, we have to adjust to the student, not the other way around. Sadly, this does not always happen.
At the same time, many teachers claim as their own discovery technically correct information that is as much as a century old. To put this into golf instruction, there is no new miracle swing but rather old ideas that are repackaged. Very little is really new, except to golfers who simply do not know golf history. As President Harry Truman once wrote, "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know."
The sad thing for students is that these same instructors will often be teaching something entirely different next year—or in some cases, next month. They are in search mode just like many students. Many teachers go from one method to another and simply will not do any research on their own.
Any serious student of the game is looking for constants. What do the best players actually do? Those are the things that can be accurately called the fundamentals. But you would be surprised by how many things that have been long and respectfully considered fundamentals actually aren't. And that the real fundamentals are hardly even known. Remember—real fundamentals are what all top ball strikers have in common, not what some uninformed person claims is a perfect golf swing. I say: Prove it. Show me who does it. Don't tell me; show me.
Ask almost every teaching pro in the world to name four fundamentals, and they will repeat what they have been taught from their PGA associations. Usually it is grip, aim, posture, and stance. Well, I can guarantee you that these are absolutely not fundamentals to great ball striking or to becoming a great player.
Let me give you just a few easy examples. The man most knowledgeable golfers would consider having the greatest golf swing of all time, Sam Snead, slumped his shoulders and leaned out toward the ball (as does 2007 U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera), which is far from the perfect posture. A straight line down from Snead's shoulders would hit in front of his toes. Sam also aimed to the right of his target and took the club away to the inside, "under" the shaft plane. In recent times, Zach Johnson won the 2007 Masters with one of the strongest grips you could ever find, carrying his hands as low as any top golfer in history, similar to Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller (both multiple major champions). Zach also lifts up dramatically in the backswing and returns the clubshaft on a much higher plane at impact. Lee Trevino aimed a hundred yards to the left and pushed his shots far out to the right of where his body was aligned. He also had an extremely strong left-hand grip. Yet, most observers who saw them both would say that the quality of Trevino's ball striking was the equal of Ben Hogan's. Hogan, by the way, had a very weak grip, as did major champions Johnny Miller and Bill Rogers, as well as many modern-day PGA Tour players. Tiger Woods has dramatically weakened his left-hand grip in the past few years, showing just one knuckle. Many golfers look at Sergio Garcia, one of the greatest ball strikers of the past decade, and see another odd swing. Instead, I search to see all the things he is doing right.
The so-called "correct" grip is probably the actual non-fundamental that is most commonly considered a fundamental. The truth is that all of us have different hand sizes, hand features, and grip strengths. You practice to find a grip that works for you—meaning one that gets the clubface square at impact with speed and with excellent impact alignments. As I will repeat over and over in this book, the critical part of any golf swing is the impact zone—from waist high to waist high (Step Five through Step Seven). If you are great in this area and you can repeat it, then your golf swing is great. Period.The Eight-Step Swing, 3rd Edition. Copyright Â© by Jim McLean . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from The Eight-Step Swing by Jim Mclean
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